Tag Archives | bannock

The Wilderness Gathering

The Wilderness Gathering is a unique Bushcraft event; the longest running and still very much an original festival of Bushcraft, Survival and Primitive Living Skills in the UK. It’s also a social event and brings together families and friends, all those interested in Bushcraft and Wilderness living skills to enjoy a weekend of knowledge sharing in a relaxed and family friendly atmosphere.

In the past I’ve visited the gathering but this time I was teaching as part of the gatherings team of instructors. It was great to be part of such a special event, teaching bread baking, catching up with old friends and making many new ones too.

In the bread baking workshops we made yeasted / leavened bread and bannock and unleavened bread that used baking powder. One of the recipes was peppered cheddar bread baked in a Dutch oven – that’s the big cast iron pot in the corner of the fire!

Bread baking at the Wilderness Gathering

Bread baking at the Wilderness Gathering

Sharing freshly baked bread at the Gathering

Sharing freshly baked bread at the Gathering

Teaching bread baking at the Wilderness Gathering

Teaching bread baking at the Wilderness Gathering

Improvised bread baking at the Wilderness Gathering

Improvised bread baking at the Wilderness Gathering

Cooking bannock at the Wilderness Gathering

Cooking bannock at the Wilderness Gathering

Teaching bread  and bannock making at the Wilderness Gathering

Teaching bread and bannock making at the Gathering

Thank you Roger Harrington of Bison Bushcraft and founder of the Wilderness Gathering and Jason Sears for providing the opportunity and thanks to George Aitchison at Bushcraft Days for the photos, all much appreciated. I’m looking forward to next years gathering.

Bushmoot

The Bushmoot is an opportunity for individuals and families with an interest in Bushcraft to gather together and expand their knowledge through mutual skill sharing. The Moot runs for nearly two weeks and is located in a 100 acres of beautiful woodland at Merthyr Mawr in South Wales.

Bread baking at the Bushmoot

Bread baking at the Bushmoot

Last year I spent a full two week at the Moot, it really is such a friendly and relaxed event, with great opportunities to learn skills, make new friends and generally have a great time.

This year, I ran a bread baking and bannock making workshop for the folks attending the Moot. It was lovely to see everyone working together, making bread and enjoying it too!

The recipes for bread and bannock used at The Bushcraft Show

Bread baking workshop at The Bushcraft Show

Bread baking workshop at The Bushcraft Show

Wow, what a fantastic weekend at The Bushcraft Show. My bread baking workshops were booked up quickly, with individuals, couples and families all wanting to bake bread and make bannock on a campfire. There was a lovely friendly atmosphere throughout, with people helping each other, commenting on their own experiences and asking questions, not just those in the workshops but many of those watching too. The bread baking workshop started with making a yeast based bread and then while this bread was proving and then baking, we made, cooked and enjoyed eating bannock!

The campfire

When cooking on a campfire, it is important to recognise that no matter how good your fire, the embers will cool. If you are just boiling a kettle that may be fine, but if baking bread, you will need a sustained heat source; a good supply of embers to maintain the required baking temperature.

One way of making sure you have sufficient embers is to have a long-fire, perhaps double the width you may actually need for cooking. One half should be used for cooking while the other is used to maintain a fire and create new embers. As the embers you are cooking over cool, you can then rake fresh hot embers into your cooking area.

Baking bread in billy cans - note tiffin tin inside billy can and green stick supporting it!

Baking bread in billy cans – note tiffin tin inside billy can and green stick supporting it!

Pots and pans

With the exception of baking bread directly in the embers, you are going to need a pot to cook the bread. Options include a Dutch oven or some combination of billy cans to form an improvised oven.

The benefit of a Dutch oven, it being made of cast iron, is that it is good at distributing heat evenly around the pot. But, if you place a Dutch oven directly over flames, the bottom will still get hotter than the sides and will likely burn what you are cooking inside.

To avoid this when baking with a Dutch oven, you can cook your bread in another pot inside the Dutch oven. This creates an oven, similar to what you would find in a kitchen. Items cooked in an oven are usually cooked in the middle of the oven, supported on a rack. In the Dutch oven the pot containing the food to be cooked or in this case the dough to be baked is supported on green wood pieces or stones.

Bread and bannock baking at the Bushcraft Show

Bread and bannock baking at the Bushcraft Show

The Dutch oven is a very useful item in a fixed, semi-permanent camp or perhaps on a canoeing journey, but if hiking it’s weight would be far to much to carry. An alternative, lighter option is to carry two pots or billy cans, one sitting inside the other as the Dutch oven above. Lightweight aluminium pots are an option, but you may find they tend to deform easily with the heat of the fire. My preference is for stainless steel billy cans.

Bread recipe

A wonderful basket of tasty bread

A wonderful basket of tasty bread

This recipe produces a lovely small loaf with a nice dome. I cook this one in an improvised oven; a Zebra stainless billy can with another smaller can inside, a tier from a Zebra stainless tiffin food carrier.

  1. Measure out 1 mug of good quality bread baking flour (350ml mug) and ½ teaspoon of salt and put in a mixing bowl, ideally warm the bowl first.
  2. Activate the yeast, I use Allinson dried active yeast; Add 1 teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of flour and 1½ teaspoons  of dried active yeast to a ⅓ of a mug of warm / hot water, mix well and leave to activate – bubble and froth for a few minutes. I find the best way to judge the temperature is to carefully put a finger in the water, it should feel hot, but not so much as you need to remove your finger – please take care not to scold your finger!
  3. Once the yeast is activated and frothy, add to the flour and salt, and mix well and form into a single ball of dough. You want a loose dough, not too dry but not too wet, add a little warm water or a sprinkle of flour as required.
  4. Kneed your dough, stretching it out and getting the glutens to develop and make an elastic dough.
  5. Oil your baking pan (the tiffin tin), I like to use a little olive oil, and put the dough in the tin. Place a few green sticks (or stones) in the bottom of the oven billy can and place the tiffin tin inside. Place the lid on and then put near the fire to warm and prove the dough. Ideally you want it to double in size. Depending on the weather conditions and temperature of your fire this is likely to take 20-30 minutes.
  6. One the dough has proved sufficiently, scrape back the embers of the fire and place the billy can in the middle and push the embers back up against it. Baking typically takes 30-40 minutes; check after 20 minutes and if it looks like a loaf with a nice raised dome, replace the lid and cover with hot embers to finish baking.
  7. To judge if the loaf is cooked through, use a thin pointed stick as a skewer and push it through the top of the loaf. It should go though with little resistance and come out clean. If it does, turn out the loaf and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow.

Bannock recipe

Bannock baking as dampers over the bread baking fire

Bannock baking as dampers over the bread baking fire

As much as I love making bread, if you are pushed for time and hungry then a bannock is just the answer, it’s really quick and easy to make.

  1. Measure out ½ mug of good quality bread baking flour (350ml mug), ¾ teaspoon of baking powder, 2-3 dessert spoons of milk powder, 1 teaspoon of sugar, I like to use muscavado, a brown sugar to add flavour and if you want a more cake like bannock a dessert spoon of whole egg powder.
  2. Mix all these together with sufficient water, warm if you like, to create a slightly sticky dough.
  3. Prepare a stick ready for cooking the bannock, use green wood to reduce the chances of it burning. Trim the bark back to avoid imparting any bitterness to the bread – be careful what wood you choose, a hazel, sycamore, ash or oak stick should be fine. Use a long stick, so you don’t have to be quite so close to the fire and avoid the smoke.
  4. To cook the bannock, roll the dough out into a long sausage and wrap around the stick. Leave room between the twists around the stick to allow it to rise and cook. It should resemble a helter-skelter, with room for an imaginary marble to roll down! Squash down the ends onto the stick so it doesn’t fall off into the fire.
  5. Cook over the embers until golden brown all over. It should be firm to touch but still have some spring to it. Carefully slide off the stick and eat while warm.
  6. Alternatively, rather than use a stick, cook in a heated and oiled cast iron skillet. Press the bannock dough down into the pan so that it is thumb thick. Prop up the skillet near the embers to cook in the radiated heat, turn as and when necessary to cook evenly all over. When the first side is done, turn and repeat. Tradition has it that bannock should be broken, so please don’t cut your bannock.

Thank you to everyone who joined the bread baking workshops at The Bushcraft Show, I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. Don’t forget your homework, there is more bread to be baked!

Bread baking at The Bushcraft Show

David will be running bread baking workshops at The Bushcraft Show. They’ll be bannock cooked over a campfire, loaves of bread baked in a Dutch oven, dough twists cooked on a stick and bread baking using improvise ovens.

Bread baking workshop at The Bushcraft Show

Bread baking workshop at The Bushcraft Show

The Bushcraft Show attracts thousands of people. With expert speakers from across the globe, exciting activities, demonstrations, specialist instruction, things for youngsters to do, entertainment, trade stands and lots more. All of this makes The Bushcraft Show an interesting, exciting and fun event.

David will be running workshops throughout the weekend. If you are going to the show, do join in one of the baking workshops. David is looking forward to meeting folks at the show and getting more people baking!